The New York Times has a story about the Bombay Beach Bienalle at the Salton Sea in California.
They just had the first one, seems like it was a hit. Art, opera, and weirdness: sign me up.
Last weekend, a mostly abandoned town on the Salton Sea was transformed into a pageantry of art and opera and weirdness.
The three-day Bombay Beach Biennale was free to attend, unpublicized and driven by a mission of local engagement.
Call it the anti-Burning Man.
The idea came from Tao Ruspoli, a Los Angeles filmmaker, who years ago became fascinated by the Salton Sea, a onetime tourist mecca straddling the Imperial and Coachella Valleys that has succumbed to environmental decay.
He started visiting often and even bought a house in Bombay Beach, a speck of a town on the eastern shore.
“This idea of Bombay Beach Biennale popped in my head because rather than play up the sadness of the place,” he said, “I thought it would be more interesting to play on the surrealness of the place…It’s such a mixture of contradictions, of natural and unnatural, of beautiful and ugly.”
Forget Leave No Trace. These artists want to leave it better:
Mr. Ruspoli partnered with two friends, Stefan Ashkenazy, an art lover and hotelier, and Lily Johnson White, a philanthropist and member of the Johnson & Johnson family.
Last year, the trio self-funded the inaugural festival, under the theme “Decay,” and invited artists, philosophers, writers and other assorted merrymakers from their network of friends to join. It was a hit.
But rather than simply clear out once the fun was over, the festival has aimed to reinvent some of the abandoned buildings in town as permanent art spaces.
“The ethos is to be playful but also leave a lasting impact to the town,” Mr. Ruspoli said.
The Johnson (and Johnson) family are full of interesting characters, to put it mildly.
Stefan Ashkenazy is the owner of La Petit Ermitage, one of the commercial hotels doing pop-ups at Burning Man VIP camps.
This year the Biennale theme was The Way The Future Used To Be. There were more than 100 artists and performers, with attendance “in the hundreds rather than thousands”.
Carmiel Banasky in LA Weekly described the psychedelic space station and other accoutrements:
My first stop at the fest was a Mad Hatter-esque tea party, where cake pops (made by a local family), joints and edibles were passed around while fairy women made bondage art in the branches. Along the beach was a lifeguard stand turned into a psychedelic space station. Colorful smoke bombs set off at sunset through large sea creature cut-outs asked us to remember where we were, while the outdoor bar next door (tended by men in yellow bikini briefs) asked us to forget it.
Read the full story at the New York Times
Read the LA Weekly Story